The Kaje talks slow burn success with Black Diamond Bay

Black Diamond Bay founder Jesse O’Mahoney is sat in a coffee shop in central London pondering his band’s recent good fortune. What had started out as just a musical experiment with close pal Tom Sidebottom, has mutated through the years and is currently a five piece Slo Mo House Band (Sidebottom is no longer in the live band, but still produces the group). Having just garnered their first spin on Radio 1 (“I Dreamt We Were Bank Robbers”), O’Mahoney is aware that everything might suddenly be jumping up to the next level – but he remains modest about their good fortune…

Can you tell us a little about how Black Diamond Bay has evolved through the years…

Me and Tom were in Leeds about four years ago, where we grew up together. We sat in Tom’s bedroom and wrote an album of songs which were originally intended to be an easy listening album. It was a sort of joke between us and it turned into something quite unexpected. It was kind of a slowed down dance music, using the digital elements of dance music. It has a more classical musicianship from Tom, who is a classically trained violin player and pianist. We were sort of surprised by the collection of songs we had created, so we decided to start playing them live. We soon realised that playing live as two people sat behind a laptop was as boring for the people watching as it was for us. So we decided to put a band together.

Tom taught at the music college in Leeds, Leeds College of Music, and so he had ready to access to some of the finest musicians around. So we essentially cherry-picked the best musicians we could find. We looked for people who we got on with, but were also great musicians. As a result they come from very different backgrounds musically, which I think has really helped the band overall. We have got an avant-garde jazz bass player, who is also a heavy metal man. The drummer who is heavy into cut-up electro and dubstep. The guitarist comes from a pop – Prince and Quincy Jones style background. Tom is classically trained. Agne comes from Lithuania and brings a touch of mysticism and magic with her. I came from a Bob Dylan/Neil Young, singer/songwriter area. That is what I listened to when I was writing stuff. I haven’t quite obtained their dizzy heights.

Once we had these musicians in place, we brought them in with the intention of playing what we had written. It took us a while as when we learnt to play those song, they evolved into something new – an album which we put out last year – but it was not until we got rid of those songs that we really came into our own. We are not trying to emulate something that Tom and I had done, we are doing something that works as the band. There is a lot more collaboration within the band.

How would you define the project in its current state?

I quite like likening us to Rutger Hauer’s character Roy in “Blade Runner” – an android wrestling with human emotions and trying to discover what it is to be human. He is trying to fool Harrison Ford (as Rick Deckard) into letting him live. Our music has always been a coming together of analogue and digital.

Our name Black Diamond Bay is a Bob Dylan song about the way human beings create stories as a way of creating pathos. Until you create that story around someone, it is just a name you can’t relate with.

Our sound has always been about that battle between the analogue and digital. How we express ourselves in the technical age through computers and guitars. How they sometimes clash and sometimes work. We have that synergy that works, but it is always the battle between the guitarist and bass player. So we are Rutger Hauer.

You have just had your Radio 1 debut – how do you feel about the exposure?

The exposure is an incredible thing. But it is hard not to be wary of it. These days everyone is very well versed in the world of music and the ebb and flow of support and interest from different people in the industry. We were building up really well this live show, between Leeds and London. We now have people who know our songs and sing them back to us during our show, which is the best thing ever. Then the exposure comes along and in some ways it can derail your slightly, as you get ahead of yourself. But it has been great to be heard and to get the response, but we have to not allow ourselves to think we are now an enormous pop band.

What would you say the band’s intentions are?

We are actually planning mass intergalactic domination. We are planning an invasion of Saturn next, we have had it with this country. We have used up all the natural resources. There is nothing left to conquer. Agne chose it, she saw it in a poster. We all wanted to go to Mars but she made the decision.

But seriously, we didn’t have management or much of a team around us in terms of PR. We didn’t have much of a strategy beyond building our live show. So now we have a lot of that coming together. We are putting out a release early next year and promoting that, just hoping we get an audience. We’d like to use the exposure to get some festival slots next year, as we feel that is somewhere we can be very succesful due to our expansive sound.

Words and Images: Jeremy Williams


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